Seika High School courted a reputation for its rowdy student body, due in no small part to its all-male admission. Even after going co-ed, the men still hold an 80% majority and live up to their feckless behaviour, kept in check only by the school’s first female student council president. Donning the reformist’s cap, Misaki Ayuzawa takes on the role with gusto, putting her hard graft and dedication into effect and ruling with an iron fist. Under her hardened façade is a home that’s falling steadily into ruin, a kooky, simple-minded sister and an over-cautious mother. To pay her tuition, Misaki works part time at a maid café the next town over, a fact she’s desperate to keep from her underlings.
When she’s found out by dreamy heartthrob Takumi Usui, Misaki expects her carefully constructed life to unravel, but far from the expected, Takumi lords the secret over her and becomes a regular at Maid Latte. Good-looking and with grades to match, Takumi is an object of worship for the guys, and adoration for the girls. In reality, he’s apathetic, roguish and harbouring pervy tendencies with more than a little affection for Misaki. It’s this set-up that keeps the central formula ticking over: he comes on strong while she fits neatly into the tsundere archetype, hitting, belittling and insulting him, but stopping every so often for a smooch and some affection. While this central gag is at the heart of every episode, there’s different ways of serving up the same scenario.
It’s a structure reminiscent of My Love Story!! with the initial dramatic hook quickly resolved, leaving the rest of the series up for grabs and difficult to pin down. In this instance, it’s Misaki going easier on the guys. The real surprises come in one in three episodes, with situations that go above and beyond what was expected, exploring, as it does, stalking, sexual harassment and abuse.
Quietly unusual, Maid Sama! frequently changes tact to keep from going stale, making for an easy to binge-watch 14-episode collection. There’s no overarching plot beyond the ebb and flow of Misaki and Takumi’s relationship, so episodes can be swapped and switched with little consequence. It plays up the notion “from the ridiculous to the sublime” with its jump to the hypno-nonsense of the collection closer, but fortunately, the sharp social commentary and pencil shaded backdrops just about make up for that.
MAID SAMA! PART 1 / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: HIROAKI SAKURAI / SCREENPLAY: HIRO FUJIWARA / STARRING: AYUMI FUJIMURA, KANA HANAZAWA, MUTSUHIRO ICHIKI, YU KOBAYASHI, NOBUHIKO OKAMOTO / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 16TH